Bring on the Nationals.
From May 23 to 25, Penn track and field will compete in the NCAA East Preliminary in Jacksonville, Fla. The top 12 finishers in each event will qualify for the national championships in June, to be held in Austin, Texas.
Representing Penn are a program record 27 athletes, including 14 men and 13 women: the highest number in the Ivy League. This also marks the third year running that more than 20 Quakers have made it to the preliminary round of the NCAAs. Coach Steve Dolan credits the effort of his coaching staff over the past few years for this achievement.
“It’s been a fun build-up the last few years,” Dolan said. “I think [the coaches] have worked really hard on recruiting great student-athletes to Penn, and then helping to develop their talents. I’m really lucky to have a great group of coaches to work with.”
Besides the staff, Dolan also praised his more experienced athletes for serving as role models and being vocal on the team.
“Credit the juniors and seniors on our team,” he said. “They’ve kind of, you know, developed their own talents, and taken on a great leadership role, helping the team get better and better.”
In fact, achieving qualification is the result of year-long dedication and effort. Most of the team has been training intensively since the fall. With the semester coming to a close, Dolan is satisfied that his team can now turn all their attention to the preliminaries.
“They’ve been working all year for this,” he said. “But since we’re used to a structured [training] schedule during the school year, one of the challenges [now] will be to work hard to stay in a routine so [we’re] ready for these championship meets.”
Despite pressure on his star athletes to fight for national glory, Dolan thinks the season, which saw the Quakers participate in large meets like the Texas Relays and the Tennessee Relays, has prepared his team well for the big stage.
“We’re kind of looking it at the other way, you know,” Dolan said. “I think the excitement and the competition will bring out their best. So it’s not so much [about] being nervous but more that they’re excited for the challenge to compete with some of the best athletes.”
Spearheading both the men’s and women’s team are recipients of the Most Outstanding Track Performer award in last month’s Ivy Heptagonal Championships.
En route to the accolade, senior Calvary Rogers won the 200 with a time of 20.99. This marks the fourth time Rogers has qualified for the preliminaries, and he will certainly be looking to improve on his 35th place finish in the prelims last season.
Junior Nia Akins, who has showcased her strengths throughout this season, claimed victory in the 800, her time of 2:04.86 seconds being the second fastest time in Ivy Heps history, but below her season-high of 2:03.76, which is the fourth-best record in the country. Besides her signature 800, Akins will also compete in the 1500.
Other Quakers to look out for on the men’s team include freshman Marc Minichello, who is primed to advance to the championships after qualifying for the preliminaries with the sixth-best record of the season. Junior Sean Clarke will look to better his twelfth place ranking in the pole vault, which will just be enough to send him to Texas. And the Daly twins, juniors Colin and Will, will both be competing in the 3k steeplechase.
On the women’s team, great things are sure to come from a pair of seniors who will both be vying for a place in the finals for a second consecutive season. Having qualified for the hammer in 16th place, Rachel Lee Wilson will have work to do to emulate her 11th place finish in the prelims last season. For the other, Anna Peyton Malizia, her personal record in the high jump of 1.82m, a Penn record, was set this year during the Texas Relays at the Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas. Coincidentally, that will be the venue of the upcoming NCAA Championship.
The Quakers have worked hard all year for this. Now it’s time to make that work count.